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Man found dead in Woodland Safeway parking lot Tuesday; police suspect overdose

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WOODLAND — A 20-year-old man from the Seattle area was found dead from a suspected overdose Tuesday while parked in a vehicle at the Woodland Safeway, as officers report stronger opioids are in the area.

Woodland Sgt. Jim Keller said the exact cause of death has not been determined, but police suspect he overdosed on opioids based on evidence at the scene.

A manager called around 7:30 a.m. Tuesday for a welfare check when an employee leaving the night shift noticed a man passed out in a vehicle near the front of the parking lot, Keller said.

Keller said officers administered Narcan, which is a brand name for naloxone, a medication that can reverse opioid overdoses. Officers and Clark-Cowlitz Fire Rescue crews also performed CPR for about 20 minutes until they determined resuscitation wasn’t possible, he added.

Keller said an investigation about the man’s death prevents him from releasing the name.

Stronger drugs

Woodland officers are seeing more fentanyl-laced heroin, a “very deadly,” stronger opioid in the area, Keller said.

The Center for Disease Control states fentanyl is a synthetic opioid often used for cancer patients and is about 100 times stronger than morphine. Keller said Woodland officers carry Narcan to prevent civilian overdoses on such opioids, as well as if officers overdose after touching or inhaling opioid evidence.

Declining drug arrests

Though Keller has seen a local rise in fentanyl-laced heroin, he estimates Woodland officers make about 50% fewer drug-related arrests compared to a year ago due to state legislation that delays how quickly suspects can be detained.

A state misdemeanor that took effect July 1 prevents arresting people for simple drug possession, a previous felony, until their third documented offense. Suspects must be deferred for drug treatment twice before being arrested for suspicion of possessing drugs for their own use, as opposed to selling narcotics.

Keller said there also are fewer immediate arrests on crimes like theft and shoplifting, where officers often find drugs on suspects. Police could previously briefly detain people based on weaker justifications like unusual behavior and partial descriptions, but under a law that took effect July 25, officers need stronger evidence before using force to stop suspects.

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